While the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria are still more than a year away, both the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and the U.S. Biathlon Association (USBA) have posted qualifying criteria for the event.
Why so early? Entries for the Youth Olympics, which are scheduled for January 13th through 22nd, 2012, are due at the beginning of December, 2011. Since there won’t be much time for qualification events that winter, most of the process will happen this season.
“We’re going to have to do most of the selection this winter,” USBA Athlete Development Director Piotr Bednarski told FasterSkier. “It’s weird especially for that age group… kids change so much.”
For both biathlon and cross-country, only athletes born in 1994 or 1995 are eligible to race. Skiers in that age bracket should take note, because the fully-funded trip has a lot to offer.
“It’s a full-on Olympic Games,” Bednarski said. “It’s run by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and supported by the U.S. Olympic Committee. It’s going to be huge! All the sports will be there.”
When the IOC created the Youth Olympics in 2007, its vision was “to inspire young people all around the world to participate in sport and adopt and live by the Olympic values: excellence, friendship, respect.” The Games in Innsbruck are expected to draw over 1,000 athletes, including 100 biathletes and 90 nordic skiers.
Biathlon and cross-country races will be held at the Seefeld Arena, which hosted racing during the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics as well as the 1985 FIS World Championships.
USSA will select two boys and two girls based off of the National Ranking List (NRL). It’s very simple selection process, with only the top two ranked athletes from in the age bracket making the trip. The races will include a skate sprint and a 5/10 k classic race.
USBA is using a more complicated system, using points from an athlete’s best four of nine qualification races. The races used will be three different three-race series: 2011 World Junior trials in Jericho, Vermont this week, U.S. National Championships in Mount Itasca, Minnesota in March, and the Summer Rollerski Biathlon Festival back in Jericho in August. The first athlete of each sex will be chosen straight off of points, and the second by coach discretion, with points factoring into the decision as well. The team will compete in a sprint, a pursuit, and a mixed relay.
And for the first time, the cross country and biathlon athletes will end up working together in a mixed-sport relay featuring one boy and one girl from each discipline.
For potential biathletes, there’s one more incentive, in case the idea of a fully funded international racing trip wasn’t enough. The racers selected for the Games will also be funded to attend training camps in Soldier Hollow in October and West Yellowstone in November.
“Even if someone is just starting biathlon, they should try to do some of the trials,” Bednarski said. “It’s a great opportunity.”